Great pitching and a terrific home record have given the Detroit Tigers a shot at the playoffs.
The Detroit Tigers are in position to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2006 World Series.
Since the heart-breaking loss to the St. Louis Cardinals three seasons ago, the Tigers are just nine games above .500 and have not been anywhere close to making the postseason.
Though injuries plagued the team early this season, the team still managed a 3 1/2 game lead in the Central Division at the All-Star break. That same lead remains intact with just 35 games remaining in the regular season.
Management has attempted to improve the team since the break, however. General Manager Dave Dombrowski acquired pitcher Jarrod Washburn and first baseman Aubrey Huff, via trades, to help make a push toward the playoffs. The additions have not exactly paid off thus far.
Washburn, a former Seattle Mariner, lost his first start as a Tiger and has had three no decisions since then. The offense, which has shown signs of improvement as of late, bailed Washburn out and they managed to win in each of the three no decisions. He has allowed 17 runs in just four starts as a Tiger.
Huff, acquired from Baltimore for minor league pitcher Brett Jacobson, has never been in a pennant race in his career. In four games as a Tiger, Huff has just one hit in nine at-bats. Despite the mediocre moves, the Tigers have a 12-8 record since August 1.
Defensive Errors have hampered the team all season. The Tigers are tied for 21st out of 30 major league teams with 76 errors committed.
The offense has been pathetic throughout the season. Detroit is currently 12th out of 14 teams in batting average and 11th in runs scored in the American League (A.L.). Shockingly, Miguel Cabrera is the only everyday position player hitting over .275 for Detroit. To say the offense is weak is an insult to weak offenses everywhere.
The reason why the Tigers are in the hunt for the playoffs and currently have the division lead is their pitching. Pitchers Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and Jarrod Washburn are all in the top seven in ERA in the A.L. Detroit is tied for second in the A.L. with their division rival Chicago White Sox, with a 4.13 ERA.
Ace Justin Verlander leads the A.L. in strike outs with 204, 22 more than the next closest pitcher. He is third in wins with 13 and is seventh in ERA. His effort this season will put him in the discussion for the A.L. Cy Young Award at the end of the season.
I believe the Tigers will make the playoffs for a few reasons. The first is because neither the Chicago White Sox nor the Minnesota Twins, their two closest division competitors, are above .500 since the break. The second is because the age-old adage, “good pitching beats good hitting” is actually true and pitching is what the Tigers do well.
Finally, Detroit will make the playoffs because they have more home games than road games remaining. The Tigers have the fourth best home record in the entire league.
The playoffs are far from locked up for the Detroit Tigers. Their batting must improve and they have to figure out how to win a few more games away from Comerica Park. If those areas do not improve, the Tigers will be spectators, not participants, of the 2009 playoffs.